Assassin's Heart(127)

By: Sarah Ahiers



Allegra stirred in her sling, then opened her eyes and watched us. Les pulled away. “Was it worth it?” he asked.

“What?”

“Your family. Was it worth it?”

“Dying for?”

He nodded.

My family had been murdered, and it had been partially my fault. They’d left me alone to avenge them, to do right by them and by our Family. They could never be replaced.

But here I was, surrounded by a new family. The children of my brothers. An uncle who often seemed to despise me as much as care for me, and a fake clipper I’d found on the foreign streets of Yvain. But these descriptions didn’t encompass who they were, what they’d come to mean to me. Emile had clutched that knife in his hands because he trusted me to take care of him. My uncle had rescued an orphaned boy from the streets before the ghosts could find him. And Les . . . Les had given me a reason to live again, in more than one way.

Trusting the wrong people had gotten my family killed. But trusting the right people had returned it to me again. Jewelry and dresses and feathered masks were beautiful things, but so were good food and sleep, family and friends, love and letting go. I would never again have the family I’d lost, or the beautiful things that were taken from me. But maybe I could start again with this new family and see where it would lead. Maybe Les had been right. Maybe Family wasn’t stronger than family. And maybe family was what we made of it.

Was that worth dying for?

“Yes,” I answered. “A thousand times yes.”

Les laughed, and I joined in. Marcello scowled at us as we made our way north.





Acknowledgments


And here we are with an actual, real book in hand. Ta-da! (Imagine some jazz hands here. Really good ones.)

But, as usual, there was no way this book would have happened on its own. I mean, obviously it had to be written, but I would have never gotten here without the help of some amazing and wonderful people. So begins the list of awesome.

Thanks to my agent, Mollie Glick, who did a fantastic job getting this book, and me, where I belonged. To my editor, Alexandra Cooper, who knew exactly how to make the story stronger without freaking me out, and Alyssa Miele and the rest of the wonderful team at HarperTeen. You are all amazing and it’s a privilege working with you.

There were quite a few people who read previous drafts and helped shape the early stages of this book. Lola Sharp, Summer Poole, Brandon Stenger, Marieke Nijkamp, Matthew MacNish, and Tricia Conway, thank you for taking the time to read my pages. I owe you forever.

And thanks to cheerleaders Kristin Rae, Rena Rocford, Jennifer Kirkeby, Molly Beth Griffin, Megan Atwood, and my wonderful friends from the QueryTracker Forum. Most of you I’ve never met in real life and I hope we can rectify that one day.

To my UMWADS writing group: Hannah Oman, Austin Gorton, and Ryan Spires. Years of beer, bar food, and fake titles and look what happened. Who would have guessed?

High fives and hugs to the amazing faculty, students, and staff at Hamline University’s MFA in Writing for Children and Young Adults. It was one of the best decisions in my life to apply and meet all you lovely writers. A special shout-out to my advisors Anne Ursu and Laura Ruby, who said the most wonderful things about my writing while telling me I needed to rewrite my essays. And especially to my classmates in The Front Row: Jessica Mattson, Brita Sandstrom, Josh Hammond, Zack Wilson, Jennifer Coates, Kate St. Vincent Vogl, Anna Dielschneider, and Gary Mansergh. I’m sincerely blessed to have met you. I can’t wait to be friends for the rest of our lives.

Last, but never least, is my wonderful family. My parents, Joe and Sandy Ahiers, and my siblings, Anne Ahiers, Patrick Ahiers, and Cassie Ahiers. For never doubting, and for all the support and excitement. And, you know, the love.

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